ITUC Global Covid-19 Survey: Regional differences exposed in government responses to the Covid-19 pandemic – millions of workers in Africa, Asia-Pacific and the Americas at risk of economic devastation

The impact of Covid-19 on jobs and employment has increased as more countries are responding to the pandemic with national lockdown measures including the closure of schools and non-essential business. While wage protection and income support are provided in many G20 and OECD countries, working people in Africa, Asia-Pacific and the Americas have lost jobs and incomes and could face widespread famine unless there is urgent global co-ordination and fiscal stimulus measures.

The gap between regions is exposed in the second ITUC Global Covid-19 survey of 116 trade unions in 94 countries, including 17 G20 countries and 32 OECD countries, carried out between 30th March – 2 April 2020.

The ILO’s latest analysis of the catastrophic effect of Covid-19 on working hours and earnings shows that there could be loss of 22 million full-time equivalent jobs (based on a 40-hour working week) in Africa, 150 million in Asia-Pacific and 29 million in the Americas.

“While G20 governments have committed to a record stimulus of $5 trillion, it risks excluding emerging and developing countries.

“The vast majority of governments (72%) are providing wage protection and income support, but there are big regional differences. Forty-one per cent of countries say this is not enough to cover essential costs – this is most strongly felt in the Asia-Pacific (64%) region followed by the Americas (45%).

“We cannot just sit by and wait for the pandemic to attack countries in Africa and Latin America with the same ferocity that it has elsewhere without a plan of action.

Fifty-seven per cent of governments surveyed in Africa and 35% surveyed in the Americas are not providing wage protection and income support for workers. We must be prepared with all the tools at our disposal to support these countries – many of whom the world, including advanced economies, relies on for food and materials through global supply chains,” said Sharan Burrow, General Secretary, ITUC.

The ITUC is calling for support for a Global Fund for Universal Social Protection for the poorest countries to support health care and income support, and for the IMF to co-ordinate fiscal stimulus, issue additional special drawing rights (SDRs), set up a Trust Fund into which advanced economies can re-allocate their holdings of SDRs, and earmark the Trust Fund for public health, social protection and jobs.

The ITUC Global Covid-19 Survey, which includes tracking data from countries that responded in the week of 17th March and 30th March, found:

  • Sixty-two per cent of countries are now in lockdown, up from 54% amongst the same 67 countries who completed the survey week to week.
  • Europe (75%) has the largest number of countries in lockdown followed by the Americas (71%). Asia-Pacific has the least with 61% of countries.
  • Bolsonaro’s government in Brazil is the only government out of 94 which continues to say that coronavirus is not a major threat to public health or the national economy.

“The social contract is being re-written in many countries as governments, employers and unions work together to manage the social and economic impact of Covid-19. Governments are responding to the needs of workers well in 64% of countries. This view is held in all regions apart from the Americas, where governments are responding badly (65%).

While there are examples of good employers securing jobs and incomes for 90 days, supporting supply chains and giving back to society, too many employers are leaving workers behind. Fifty-six per cent of countries think that employers are responding to the needs of workers badly. Employers in the Americas and Asia-Pacific are worse at responding to the needs of workers. Amongst the 67 countries that completed the survey both weeks, 51% said employers were performing badly the first week, and 61% in the second week.

“The ILO gave a stark warning today with the projection of the decline in working hours (based on a full-time 40-hour working week) equivalent to a loss of 230 million full-time workers globally – there are difficult times ahead. Only by working together with social dialogue between unions, employers and governments and the commitment for global co-ordination will people retain trust in governments. This is the basis for a post-pandemic future that leaves no one behind,” said
Sharan Burrow.


Read the ITUC Global Covid-19 Survey Key Findings.